How to Handle Conflict Effectively

Conflict is a natural part of life and can occur at work, in relationships and even within the family. It can be uncomfortable and damaging to the workplace, but if handled effectively it can also provide a great opportunity for learning and growth.

Conflict arises when a person or group’s basic needs are not met, and these needs can vary from person to person. The most common cause of conflict in the workplace is a misunderstanding, which can be caused by a number of factors including a lack of effective communication, a personality clash or a misinterpretation of a message.

In the workplace, there are many sources of conflicting perceptions, including memos, performance reviews, company rumors, hallway comments and client feedback. These can often be interpreted differently by the people involved, and what was meant may get lost in translation. A lack of clear communication can also cause resentment and tension between employees, especially when one employee has more resources than another.

A common cause of conflict in a relationship is one person’s selfishness and inconsiderate behavior. These can include being late for a date, forgetting an anniversary or birthday, borrowing something without returning it and continually breaking plans for frivolous reasons.

The conflicting perceptions that result from this type of behavior can cause a great deal of pain and strain. People can begin to resent each other and the conflict can grow into bitterness.

Occasionally, conflicts don’t reach the felt stage and remain latent. However, it is important to address any feelings of tension immediately, because left unaddressed, they can escalate quickly. Often, this is the result of the conflicting perceptions being reinforced by other situations.

Conflicts can also escalate to the felt stage when a person is betrayed by someone else. This can be a major blow to the ego and is very difficult for individuals to handle. Conflict in this category usually requires some form of mediation and the individuals involved must be willing to talk about it.

As the conflict reaches the felt stage, it can be more intense and obvious to everyone involved. People may start to avoid working together, which can hamper productivity and create a hostile environment. The feelings of frustration can also manifest in gossip that spreads like wildfire. Excessive gossip is a sign of conflict and should be addressed immediately.

If conflict isn’t addressed, it can become more serious and even lead to legal action. This can be caused by the escalation of emotions and the unwillingness to compromise. People can even become physically aggressive. This can have a devastating effect on the workplace and can be very difficult to resolve. It is important to separate the person from the problem and recognize that both parties have a role in the conflict. This can be challenging, but it is a much healthier option than deciding that you cannot work with the person anymore. It is also a lot more likely to result in a resolution when all involved are willing to work together.